Sanofi Pasteur on Monday said it will not fully refund the P3.5 billion the government paid for its anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, prompting a lawmaker to urge the Department of Health (DoH) to blacklist the French pharmaceutical giant.
Sanofi also refused to set up an indemnification fund for those who were inoculated with the vaccine.
Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list said the Health department should start the process of blacklisting Sanofi.
“Since they don’t want to pay the refund, let’s begin with the legal process, at first, administratively. The DoH should initiate blacklisting processes against Sanofi. When this blacklisting process gets going, the DoH can make their case there if indeed, Dengvaxia caused the deaths of the children who were vaccinated,” Batocabe, a member of the House Committee on Health, said in a news conference.
“In the same vein, the blacklisting procedure will also give Sanofi the venue to prove that they have no liability over the children’s deaths. Let’s quit all the talk,” he added.
Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte backed Batocabe’s stance.
“If it is a local supplier, it would have been immediately blacklisted. Why do we fear a multinational company? If it puts the lives of 700,000 children at risk, then they should be held liable,” Barbers said.
The government asked Sanofi for a full refund of the money spent for a massive dengue vaccination program after the company said the vaccine could worsen symptoms in some cases.
Sanofi last month agreed to reimburse the Philippine government P1.6 billion for the unused Dengvaxia. But it said Monday it would not pay for doses that were already used.
“Agreeing to refund the used doses of Dengvaxia would imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case,” Sanofi Pasteur said in a statement.
The refund offered for unused Dengvaxia doses was not due to safety or quality concerns but simply to show that the company was cooperating with Manila, it added.
The company said if the Health department would reinstate the dengue immunization program, it would provide new vaccines at no cost for individuals who did not complete their doses.
“These new doses would allow people who previously received one or two doses of the vaccine in the public program to complete the 3-dose schedule and, thus, have the opportunity to benefit from the full potential of Dengvaxia’s ability to protect against dengue,” it said.
Sanofi said it would not establish an indemnification fund because there is no evidence directly linking Dengvaxia to the 14 initial reported deaths. The company cited the findings of the independent expert panel from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital.
Autopsies to continue
Malacañang on Monday said the government would continue conducting autopsies on children who died from severe dengue.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said autopsies will help bring out the truth. He also cited the findings of the UP-PGH panel that three of 14 deaths may have been caused by Dengvaxia.
“Of the 14 cases, nine died of cases not related to dengue or the vaccine, two could not be ascertained due to lack of information, and three were diagnosed as dengue shock. Of the three, the two others who died with dengue shock (syndrome) were considered as vaccine failures based on serology test,” Roque told Palace reporters.
“We are flatly rejecting the call to stop autopsies. We will perform autopsies as they are required because we need to find the truth,” he added.
A group of doctors, scientists, health advocates, and academicians had urged the Department of Justice to stop the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) from performing autopsies on children who died after receiving the anti-dengue vaccine.
Roque said Sanofi is not yet off the hook.
“While the UP-PGH finding said that nine (deaths) are not Dengvaxia-related, it does not mean that they are not liable,” Roque said. “They must be dreaming if they think they’re off the hook. We’re just letting the investigation to be completed.”
CATHERINE S. VALENTE with AFP